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SOUTH BEND, Ind., — In the heart of Downtown South Bend you may ask your coworkers, “well what kind of cuisine do you want? Mexican? Maybe some Thai food?’
At Cinco 5 International, at first glance, the chips and salsa may indicate that you’re at a Mexican restaurant, but the Thai egg rolls say otherwise.
Owner, Leonardo Duran says it has always meant to be a variety of cuisines.
“We never wanted to label it a Mexican restaurant. That’s where ‘international’ comes in.”
Eight years ago, Juan Duran Sr. opened the restaurant with his son Juan Duran Jr. After working at Siam Thai (now home to Nom Nom Pho on Main St.), as it closed its doors and the owner moved back to Thailand, Duran Sr. kept the cuisine alive in South Bend at Cinco. His son, Leonardo runs the place now, and he says the restaurant is a showcase of the diverse options of food his dad can cook.
“He wanted to offer more because he could do more. There was jambalaya, alfredo. It’s not to fill in the gap yet, it’s a thing that he’s mastered. Right now, it has shrunk to just Thai and Mexican which is why our guests come,” said Duran. “It’s not a fusion; it’s how we would eat at home. And the Thai is traditional, how they would do it out there.”
I spoke with guests who dine regularly at Cinco 5. One guest works next door and has lunch there most days. Another group of guests were celebrating a first-timer’s birthday, who will now become a recurring customer. And a Lakeville couple said they used to come once a week when they lived nearby, now they come when they can for the Siam noodles.
Like many restaurants, Cinco 5 has faced challenges over the past few years, but the loyal fans throughout the community have shown their support through difficult times.
“This year has been the best year we’ve ever had, of course we have some issues, supply chain, staffing, but the support that we’ve gotten…I don’t know how to explain it. Thank you, very grateful,” said Duran. “It’s just like family pretty much. Regular faces come in so many times a week. We know them, many many many many, where guests come, we know their name, and they’ll share stories and they request us.”
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